Charleston’s coast has been hiding a giant deep-sea coral that spreads for 160 miles off its coast. The chief scientists couldn’t believe the magnitude of this discovery – the reef is thousands of years old!
Because not much is known about the deep sea ecosystem of the US’ Southeast coast, a team of scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and the US Geological Survey have begun a project called Deep Search 2018. After a 15-day journey on the research vessel Atlantis and with the help of a submersible called Alvin, the divers stumbled upon the huge reef.
The researchers found the 85 miles long reef on 23 August, and the expedition chief scientist, Dr. Erik Cordes stated that:
“This is a huge feature. It’s incredible that it stayed hidden off the US East Coast for so long.”
He discovered “mountains” of corals, unlike what he’s seen so far. The reef recently found has similar formations discovered by scientists that worked on the Okeanos Explorer, where they too mapped hundreds of deep-sea mounds which turned out to be corals.
What was truly impressing was that the white Lophelia coral that covered the sea floor was alive. It was surprising, considering coral reefs thrive near the surface of the water where algae get sunlight, explained a coral ecologist and member of the research team, Dr. Sandra Brooke.
A Threatening Decision
Now that scientists and the officials know that there is an important ecosystem in those waters, the coral must be protected from oil or gas development, if they want to preserve the productivity of regional fisheries.
However, the Trump administration proposed to reinstate drilling leases in the waters of the Pacific and the Atlantic. Over 140 municipalities opposed this decision, said the environmental group Oceana.
A spokesperson from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management stated that they fund this kind of research to see which areas must be protected, adding that the new information on this reef “could be useful in pre-leasing or post-leasing [oil and gas] decisions, such as those affecting sensitive habitats that are the focus of this study.”
Cordes concluded that they must protect this coral habitat from oil and gas development and that the reef has many mysteries waiting to be uncovered and keep the Deep Search team “busy for months, and even years, to come.”
Doris’s passion for writing started to take shape in college where she was editor-in-chief of the college newspaper. Even though she ended up working in IT for more than 7 years, she’s now back to what he always enjoyed doing. With a true passion for technology, Doris mostly covers tech-related topics.